MIDFIELDER Eunan O’Kane felt Steve Cook’s dramatic late winner at Barnsley had been “fitting reward” for Cherries’ recent defensive heroics.

Cook popped up deep into stoppage time as Eddie Howe’s men claimed a narrow 1-0 victory over the struggling Tykes at Oakwell on Saturday.

The central defender’s second goal of the season earned Cherries a fourth triumph this month and saw them keep a fifth clean sheet in their past six games.

His effort also helped erase the memory of the midweek defeat at Charlton where Cherries had been on the receiving end of a dagger through the heart in added time.

O’Kane told the Daily Echo: “It was getting to the stage where it didn’t look like it was going to come but we probably learned a lesson from Tuesday and you have to keep going because anything can happen.

“The goal was fitting reward for our defence because the back four and Lee Camp have been outstanding in keeping five clean sheets in our past six games. It is something we have been working on and trying to improve because we know we have goals in our team.”

O’Kane, one of Cherries’ most consistent performers this season, conceded it would be a “challenge” for them to reach the play-offs but said he felt their steady improvement during the campaign would bode well for the future.

“We just have to concentrate on ourselves,” added the 23-year-old. “We can’t really affect anyone else unless we play them. We just need to keep winning, keep picking up points and you never know.

“As a group, we have made massive strides over the past year and it has been very encouraging. We were taught a few lessons earlier in the season and everyone learned a lot from them. We regrouped, got ourselves together and have become harder to beat as the season has progressed.

“We are still playing the brand of football that both the manager and we expect and the type that the supporters want to see. But we have become a much tougher proposition. We have worked on it and it can only be a positive sign for next season.

“I am sure the manager will look to possibly add one or two to the squad and who knows where that could take us, if it doesn’t happen this season.

“People on the outside may think we have already exceeded expectations but I don’t think there were ever any questions inside the camp as to how good a squad we had and how well we could perform.

“We have confidence in own ability and it is great for us if people are doubting us because we surprise teams and have managed to pick up a lot of positive results in terms of overachieving.”